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How do you set goals to accomplish a long term goal?

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Joe’s Answer


Long term goals are really a bunch of short term goals that are designed to help you to reach your long term goal(s). I am a proponent of “taking small bites out of the elephant” and there are many steps available to establishing goals. by using the following:

Identify the overall goal and work backwards from the goal to the steps needed to achieve the goal.
With the information above you should be able to see where you want to be once you achieve the goal. Just remember, once achieved, there will probably be more goals work on.
Think about where you need to be in 6-months, 1-year, 5-years, or 10-years (etc) to achieve your long term goal.
Write down what you need to do each day, week, month, or year to work towards your goals. If you don’t write it down, it probably will not get done.
Once you achieve the smaller steps towards your goals look back and determine: “What could I have done differently or better”?
After each achievement determine if anything needs to be changed towards the overall goal.

You need to prioritize your Goals:

All of your goals (small and large) are important but it's impossible to work on all of them at once. I try to whittle them down using a pro/con or need/want approach to clean out the parts that may not be as important to achieving the overall goal. You also need to determine what is most important right now that will help you to achieve the goal so you can focus (small bites versus trying to eat the elephant all at once). Include additional steps (modifying the goal plan) as you achieve each smaller goal towards the end goal. The MOST IMPORTANT thing in all of this is to BE FLEXIBLE. Sometimes you might have to change your goals (small or large) as your life changes, finances change, interests change, or an event occurs that may delay your goal.

I like the definition of setting goals: “Goal setting is a mental training technique that can be used to increase an individual's commitment towards achieving a personal goal. Having a short or long term goal can encourage an individual to work harder, to be more focused on the task and to overcome setbacks more easily.”

And finally…I will share with you my favorite quote. It is important in this race for achievement to stop and enjoy, smell the roses, and be inspired by the miracles all around us!

There are two ways one can perceive life: One, as if everything is a miracle; and Two, as if nothing is! ~~~Albert Einstein~~~

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Scott D.’s Answer

Once you set a long term goal, you need to break it down into specific achievable short term steps. Limit short term goals to something you can realistically achieve in 6 months or less. Many of your short term goals will have a number of individual parts and you need to be specific with all these short term goals and look at every individual part of them. Many people make the mistake of setting a long term goal without breaking it down into these shorter term goals and then analyzing those short term goals to make sure that they can actually achieve them. Every goal will have costs to achieve the desired benefit. Make sure you are willing to pay those costs. This is not limited to financial costs. In addition to the financial aspects related to your goals there are also emotional costs, time costs, personal labor costs etc. If you have set a chain of short term goals for yourself that go out a couple of years, periodically reanalyze them as your life situation may change to where these goals are no longer feasible or after you meet one or two of the short term goals you may change your mind about the long term goal and decide that you no longer want to pursue it or find that you do not have the ability to achieve it.

As an example, let's assume your goal is to become a physician but you are still a senior in High School. Let's assume that you are an average student and your GPA is 2.0. You cannot be a physician without an advanced college degree so:
Your first short term goal is to get into a college. Pieces of this goal that you need to look at would include how much money you have to spend on college tuition. Will you need to pay for housing and related expenses or will you live at home with your parents and commute. If you are going to commute, how far are you willing to drive each way. What school that fits your aforementioned needs will accept someone with a 2.0 GPA.

Your next set of short terms goals should be semester by semester which keeps them within the 6 month time frame. You may find that your long term goal changes for a variety of reasons such as: School becomes too expensive, you get married have children and need a job to support your family, you find that despite your best efforts you cannot achieve grades sufficient to get you into medical school etc. or you have fallen in love with another career and want to pursue that one instead. It is OK to change the long term goal for any of these reasons, just go back through the process and set some new short term goals to help you get to that new longer term goal.

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Alysia’s Answer

Great question, Michael.

Before you can set long-term goals to achieve, you must do what Stephen Covey says in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Begin with the End in Mind. You must take some time to create your Vision of what it is you really want. Write it down, draw it out, describe in very clear detail what exactly it is you want to achieve and what it will look and feel like when you achieve it. A great exercise for this is to draw 3 columns on a piece of paper. Label them "See," "Hear," and "Feel." As yourself "When I achieve XYZ, what will that look like, sound like, and feel like. The look and sound can be literal (I hear my feet run over the finish line at my first marathon) or figurative (I hear people saying they're proud of me for winning my election.) Write several words in each column. That helps shapes your Vision. It may also help to create a Vision Board, keep your Vision statement on your mirror, or have an accountability partner to check on you regarding progress.

After you have a set Vision, then you need to write down 3-7 Goals that you need to accomplish to achieve your Vision. Any more than 6 or 7 is too cumbersome. Each of those Goals need to have measurements attached to them so that you can easily discern when you're 25% there or 80% there. Those metrics are called Objectives. Then, you need to write out a strategy of how you will achieve those metrics. Then break down your strategies into very detail-oriented action steps. The way you write action steps is to keep asking "How?" "How will that strategy really get completed?"

Lastly, each of your action steps needs a start date and a completion date. Your dates need to be realistic. Many people never achieve their goals because they didn't give themselves enough time, resources, or account for Murphy's Law. Life WILL happen while you're trying to achieve your goals, so be gentle with yourself when you fail or fall short. Everyone does. The good news is that you can adjust any element of your plan to suit anything you run into that changes things. It's those who can adjust their sails to go a little different direction when the wind blows differently, who are the most successful goal-achievers in life.

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Kim’s Answer


I am truly sorry no one has been answering your questions. Let me try to answer two or three of them here, to the best of my ability.

I totally understand and can implement goals when it comes to finances, however, I cannot do this with diet and exercise. I just now realized, I think it has to do with my upbringing, where finances were taught, but diet and exercise were not. So, first off, let me thank you for that new insight into myself!

Before you start setting goals, I encourage you to learn the basics of money management, investing and financial planning.

In finances, there are short, medium, and long term goals. For example, I want to retire at age 62. Unfortunately, that is now a mid range rather than long range goals. Things I do to help me get there: I always buy (good) used cars, My house is modest, not extravagant, etc. I also have an emergency fund, so, if I need home or car repairs, I can pay for them outright, rather than using credit cards or otherwise borrowing the money. The first thing to do is sort of figure out what you want in life. This will change over time.In order to achieve a long range goal, you need several shorter ones in between. So, it might be something like:

  1. get a college education without going too far in debt (military, junior college, get a job with tuition assistance)

  2. establish an emergency fund (about 6 months worth of expenses)

  3. take advantage of any "free money". 401 matches through your employer, cash back on credit cards (only if you have the self discipline to use credit wisely)

  4. take advantage of any tax deferred investments, health reimbursement accounts, etc

  5. make your goals attainable: (but not super-easy to achieve) perhaps to have save $10,000 within 5 years.
    6, when you get pay raises, remember to increase the amount you are saving

I think really important is to live below your means. Too many people get financially trapped in a job. It's entirely possible a good opportunity will come along that initially pays less than the current job. You need to be in a position where you can take it!!!

Anyway, I am super-tired tonight, but hope this has been of some help.

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Roland’s Answer

Yes you do. Give yourself a 5 , 10, and 15 year plan. Take the time to prepare yourself for the future. My father taught me “Work your plan, and plan your work!” The future is why you make of it!